Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drug warrior marijuana Talking Points: Quick Rebuttals

Gateway Drug

Researchers have rightly noted that people who have try marijuana are statistically more likely try other illicit drugs. This gave raise to the theory that there was something about marijuana that encouraged drug experimentation. Marijuana, it was alleged, is a gateway drug. This, in turn, was given as one more reason to keep the drug illegal.However, the gateway drug theory has until recently fallen on hard times for lack of an intelligible mechanism. The problem was that there was no coherent explanation for why marijuana would lead people to experiment with other drugs. Without this explanation doubt was cast relationship being more than mere correlation.That said, in recent years researchers have breathed new life into the theory, albeit with a sociological twist. According to the new version, it is not marijuana's pharmacological properties that serve as a gateway, but rather marijuana's illegal status. Specifically in the process of illegally procuring marijuana, users are introduced to the criminal elements with access to other illicit drugs and hence it is the forged blackmarket relationship between dealer and buyer that serves as gateway. Ironically the gateway drug theory has been turned on its head and used as reason for legalizing the drug. The Canadian Senate employed the new and improved version of the gateway argument as a reason for legalizing the drug.

In this context it should be noted that when the Dutch partially legalized the sale of marijuana, heroin and cocaine use went down despite an initial increase in marijuana use. Dutch use of hard drugs remains well below the European average.

Potent Pot

Potent pot is more is more myth than reality.

However, even if one assumes that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 "chemically supercharged" joint, as various US attorneys like to say, versus x number of "dad's joints" would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School concurs, so does Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California and so does UCLA's Mark Kleiman.

That said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. After all, the only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. Moreover, so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.

Finally, the attempt to scare parents that have grown up on marijuana by distinguishing between potent pot and “your dad's marijuana” is too clever by half. After all, it begs the following question. If today's marijuana is truly different in kind from "dads marijuana", would it be ok to legalize "dad's marijuana", i.e., low potency pot?

Schizophrenia Marijuana

Epidemiological studies have consistently failed to show a positive correlation between marijuana use and schizophrenia and there is no causation without correlation. Specifically, should there be a causal link between marijuana and schizophrenia, there should be a positive correlation between marijuana consumption and schizophrenia, but such a correlation is conspicuous by its absence. Despite a massive increase in the number of Australians consuming the drug since the 1960s, Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland found no increase in the number of cases of schizophrenia in Australia. Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California similarly found the same with regard to the US population and Oxford's Leslie Iversen found the same regard to the population in the UK. According to Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University,

"If anything, the studies seem to show a possible decline in schizophrenia from the '40s and the ‘ 50,"

Much of the evidence linking marijuana to schizophrenia suggests not that it causes schizophrenia but rather that it may cause the earlier onset of symptoms in people who would sooner or later develop schizophrenia. Much to Gordan Brown's dismay, this is opinion of Dr Iddon.

Dr Iddon, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs misuse [Britain], said the study did not convince him it was time to return cannabis to class B. "I don't think the causal link has been proved. I think cannabis might - possibly for genetic reasons - trigger psychosis at an earlier age." The MP, who is also a member of the science and technology select committee, said there was a danger of criminalising "hundreds of thousands of young people" if the status of the drug was changed. "If Gordon Brown changes the class of the drug, it won't be evidence-based but for political reasons," he said.

Treatment Numbers

Most people in drug treatment in Ontario are there because they abuse hard drugs. Only a small percentage, 13% in 2005, are there because of marijuana. Furthermore, those that are there for marijuana differ from other people in treatment, in so far as they are much more likely to be there because of outside pressure. Not surprisingly the typical person in "treatment" for marijuana use in Ontario is a single teenage male who is still in high school.

Ontario is not unique. Despite the fact that number of marijuana users in Western world positively dwarfs of the number of people using hard drugs, in most Western countries the vast majority of people in drug treatment are there because they abuse hard drugs. The notable exception is the US. The vast majority of people in drug treatment in the US are there because they purportedly abuse marijuana. Why the difference? Well, the majority (70%) of those in treatment for marijuana, including many casual users and even some first to users, are there because they have been given a choice, "treatment" or jail. In fact, the rise in the number of admissions for treatment correlates perfectly with a rise in the number of arrests for possession. In true Orwellian fashion, the former Drug Czar cited these figures as evidence that other countries need to get tough on drugs.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Conservatives do not Practice what they Preach on Immigration

Jason Kenney has been saying some sensible things about our immigration system. Most notably, he has said that Canada needs to place more emphasis on language skills. As studies have shown, the best predictor of how well an immigrant will do financially is how well they speak French or English. It is neither in our national interest to have immigrants lag behind economically or in the interests of the immigrants themselves. As Kenney said "Someone who has been here for 15 years and can't speak English or French is basically locking themselves out of the vast majority of jobs and is isolating themselves socially, and that is a tragedy."

The problem is that Conservatives do not practice what they preach. Indeed, while there is ample evidence (e.g., Turkish guest workers in Germany) that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster, the number of guest workers allowed in has exploded since the Conservatives came to power. Moreover whereas the typical guest worker was once American transferred to branch office in Canada, the fastest growing category of guest worker is now the unskilled type. The problem is that Conservatives have, in true Conservative fashion, turned over a greater percentage of the immigration file to the provinces and Western provinces in particular have used the program to undercut labour. The Canadian tax payer has paid to have cheap labour sent in from other countries for the sole purpose of cutting wages of the Canadian tax payer. Forget Conservative talk about bringing in much needed skilled workers, this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs this summer: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. And every time to Kenney gives lip service to importance of language, someone should remind him that all that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in.

Needless to say, despite the downturn there is no talk of reducing the number of guest workers from likes crony capitalists like Gordan Campbell. Indeed, the situation is such that even though the stated purpose of the stimulus plan is to get money following gain locally and to provide Canadians with jobs there is talk using guest workers (primarily Mexican) on the extension of the federally funded sky train extension; Canadian federal stimulus money could be flooding into Mexico.

Now Kenney’s talk of limiting the number of refugee mess is equally welcome, but just as with language skills Conservatives making things worse and not better. Yes Canada needs to dramatically reduce the number of refugees it accepts. I would personally like Canada to cap the number of refugees it accepts at 5,000 a year including dependents. However, fixing the problem goes far beyond drawing up tougher standards. The biggest hurdle to reforming the refugee system is insuring that refugees are processed quickly, that they cannot delay deportation with endless appeals and that there is mechanisms in place to insure they leave the country when they are ordered out. Regardless of the merits of their case, the longer refugees remain in country the greater the likelihood that they will stay. Under the Conservatives things have gotten much worse. It now takes a refugee claimant a year and half to get a hearing. Under the Liberals that number was one year. If Kenney was truly serious about reforming the system he would see to it that such hearings happen in a manner of months, limit or eliminate appeals and ensure that there is a system set up to sure that failed claimants have left the country. I am not going to hold my breath though.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some thoughts on SSM and the 2006 Election

I always thought the Liberals straight man’s burden talking point disingenuous. The Liberal argument was that you cannot cherry pick rights and whether SSM was a cherry is really beside the point. I was told this position focus grouped far better than anything else.

However given what happened with the promise to ban using the notwithstanding cause, I doubt it moved anyone. Indeed, the reason SSM worked for the Liberals in places such as Vancouver had very little to do with what the Liberals were saying and much more to with what the Conservatives were saying, Reform party stereotypes, and ideological similarities between the Bush administration and Conservatives. In terms of likely voters the numbers may have been with the Conservatives, but the debate hurt the Conservatives more than issue helped. The arguments the Conservatives offered up were pathetic and worse some were down right silly. Paul Forseth’s flyer warning not only of ‘moral decay’ but economic decay as well was laughed at by the media. The same fate greeted Rob Anders ‘homosexual sex marriage’ flyer. If that was not enough, the SSM debate enabled Conservative opponents to draw a straight line from Harper to Rove and Bush.

By switching the debate from one about ‘homosexual sex marriage’, volumes of homophobic comments by Reform MPs, pictures of Stephen Harper dressed up to look like one of the Village People and prideful talk about Americans fleeing “Jesus Land” to something that was utterly abstract, the Liberals allowed the Conservatives to at once save themselves from themselves and to distance themselves from Bush.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gun regristry, the god gays and gun crowd and Liberal Electoral fortunes

James Travers Toronto Star “With the possible exception of same-sex marriage, nothing alienated more Western, centre-right and rural voters (Gun registry) Once safe Liberal seats swung Conservative and haven't budged.”

The evidence that the gun registry hurt the Liberals is just not there. West of Ontario there were no safe rural Liberal seats to loose (see below), and seat and popular vote totals there did not vary much between 1997 and 2004. The same goes for the Maritimes. As for Ontario, the Liberals share of the popular vote was stable between 1993 and 2000 and when the Liberal vote did drop significantly in 2004, it was not to the Conservatives’ benefit when it came to the popular vote. Indeed, the combined PC and Reform vote in each of the three subsequent elections was 37%. In 2004 the Conservatives took only 31% of popular vote. If I am not mistaken, this represents the lowest share of the popular vote by a united Conservative party ever. Even in 2006 the Conservative share of the province’s popular vote was below the combined right wing vote between 1993 and 2000. Moving from the Liberals to the NDP is a strange way to protest your displeasure with the gun registry and that is what happened in Ontario in 2004.

The numbers are more consistent with SSM having hurt the Liberals in Manitoba, Alberta, Eastern Ontario and outside of the Lowermainland in BC in 2006. However, the Liberal share of the popular vote dropped 6% nationally and the party was in the midst of scandal; so I would be hesitant before offering an opinion. One thing that should be noted is that even as the Liberal vote contracted nationally, the Liberal share of popular vote went up in ridings such as Vancouver South, North Vancouver, Vancouver Center, West Vancouver, Vancouver Kingsway, Burnaby Douglas, Burnaby New Westminister, and Newton-North Delta. I do not know of any other region of the country in 2006 where the Liberal share of popular vote held yet alone strengthened, albeit slightly. It is my opinion that the SSM issue helped the Liberals out in 2006 in Vancouver. Certainly with regard to my riding of North Vancouver, it is generally accepted by the local media and lay pundits alike that the SSM issue doomed Conservative candidate Cindy Silver.

The Liberals and rural Western Canada 1993 to 2006

The Liberals were shut out in Alberta in 1972, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1988. As for those seats that went Liberal in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004, they were not rural seats --- they were in Edmonton -- nor where they safe. “Landslide” Anne McLellan was good case in point.

The situation in Saskatchewan was similar. The Liberals were shut out there in 1979, 1980, 1984, and 1988. As for seats the Liberals won there in 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008, there has proven to be but one safe seat and Ralph Goodale still holds it. Moreover, the Wascana is not a rural seat.

The situation is not nearly as bleak for the Liberals in Manitoba. However, the Liberals took only one rural seat in 1993, and 1997 and Provencher (MP Vic Toews) could never be described as a safe Liberal seat. It was not a Liberal stronghold prior to 1993 and the Liberals owed their success there more to a spilt in the conservative vote than anything else. Combined the PC and Reform was much greater than Liberals in both 1993 and 1997 elections. The Liberal popular support in Manitoba is concentrated in Winnipeg.

Going back all the way to world war two you can on one hand the number of seats the Liberals have won outside of Winnipeg Edmonton, and Ralph Goodale’s seat in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The Liberals faired just as poorly in rural BC during this time, but again Liberal troubles in rural BC long predated the gun registry. The Liberals won but 1 seat in 1979, 1984 and 1988 and were shut out in 1980.

Now, the success the Liberals enjoyed in Vancouver 2004 and 2006 was not unheard of. Thanks to a strong NDP vote and presence of strong Social credit party, between 1962 and 1974, the Liberals actually took more seats in BC then the Progressive Conservatives, 46 to 34 to be precise. Compare this to situation in the other 3 western provinces during this time. PCs took 97 to the Liberals 5 in Alberta, in Saskatchewan PCs took 70 to the Liberals 7 and in Manitoba the PCs took 53 to the Liberals 13. 1968 was particularly bad year of the Tories in BC. They were shut out and took 19% of vote. Together with the Social Credit the right took only 25% of vote. 75% of the vote and all 23 seats went to the Liberals and NDP. Trudeau’s Omnibus Bill did not sink the party’s fortunes. Social liberalism sells here, just do not pander to Quebec or you will face electoral oblivion.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Tim Geithner Disaster and why Americans should telling he bankers this: You screwed up. We own You. Your Fired

I will let a couple of Nobel Price winning economists, first Paul Krugman and then Joseph Stiglitz explain why Tim Geithner plan is a disaster and why nationalization is way to go.


It goes like this: the government secures confidence in the system by guaranteeing many (though not necessarily all) bank debts. At the same time, it takes temporary control of truly insolvent banks, in order to clean up their books.

That’s what Sweden did in the early 1990s. It’s also what we ourselves did after the savings and loan debacle of the Reagan years. And there’s no reason we can’t do the same thing now.

But the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, apparently wants an easier way out. The common element to the Paulson and Geithner plans is the insistence that the bad assets on banks’ books are really worth much, much more than anyone is currently willing to pay for them. In fact, their true value is so high that if they were properly priced, banks wouldn’t be in trouble.

And so the plan is to use taxpayer funds to drive the prices of bad assets up to “fair” levels. Mr. Paulson proposed having the government buy the assets directly. Mr. Geithner instead proposes a complicated scheme in which the government lends money to private investors, who then use the money to buy the stuff. The idea, says Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser, is to use “the expertise of the market” to set the value of toxic assets.

But the Geithner scheme would offer a one-way bet: if asset values go up, the investors profit, but if they go down, the investors can walk away from their debt. So this isn’t really about letting markets work. It’s just an indirect, disguised way to subsidize purchases of bad assets.


the question isn’t just whether we hold them accountable; the question is: what do we get in return for the money that we’re giving them? At the end of his speech, he spent a lot of time talking about the deficit. And yet, if we don’t do things right—and we haven’t been doing them right—the deficit will be much larger. You know, whether you spend money well in the stimulus bill or whether you’re spending money well in the bank recapitalization, it’s important in everything that we do that we get the bang for the buck. And the fact is, the bank recovery bill, the way we’ve been spending the money on the bank recovery, has not been giving bang for the buck. We haven’t gotten anything out.

What we got in terms of preferred shares, relative to what we gave them, a congressional oversight panel calculated, was only sixty-seven cents on the dollar. And the preferred shares that we got have diminished in value since then. So we got cheated, to put it bluntly. What we don’t know is that—whether we will continue to get cheated. And that’s really at the core of much of what we’re talking about. Are we going to continue to get cheated?

Now, why that’s so important is, one way of thinking about this—end of the speech, he starts talking about a need of reforms in Social Security, put it—you know, there’s a deficit in Social Security. Well, a few years ago, when President Bush came to the American people and said there was a hole in Social Security, the size of the hole was $560 billion approximately. That meant that if we spent that amount of money, we would have guaranteed the—put on sound financial basis our Social Security system. We wouldn’t have to talk about all these issues. We would have provided security for retirement for hundreds of millions of Americans over the next seventy-five years. That’s less money than we spent in the bailouts of the banks, for which we have not been able to see any outcome. So it’s that kind of tradeoff that seems to me that we ought to begin to talk about.


AMY GOODMAN: So, you say Obama, too, has confused saving the banks with saving the bankers.


AMY GOODMAN: Should the banks be nationalized?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Many of the banks clearly should be put into, you might say, conservatorship. Americans don’t like to use the word “nationalization.” We do it all the time. We do it every week.


JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, if banks don’t have enough capital so that they can meet the commitments they’ve made to the depositors, at the end of every week the FDIC looks at the balance sheet, and it says, “You don’t have enough capital. You’re not allowed to continue.” And then what they do is they either find some other bank to take it over and fill in the hole, or they take it into government control—it sounds terrible, to take it into government control—and then sell it.

And that’s what other countries have done when they faced this kind of problem—the countries that have done it well. One of the important lessons is this is the kind of thing can be done well, could be done badly. And the countries that have done badly have wound up paying to restructure the bank 20, 30, 40 percent, even 50 percent of GDP. We’re on our way to that kind of debacle. But that shows you how bad things can be, how costly it can be, if you don’t do it well.

The bankers need to be told something. Say after me America. "You screwed up. We own you. Your fired."

Drug warriors' Gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time argument

One of the arguments that I have repeatedly come across recently is that should marijuana be legalized then the gangs will move onto other things. I prefer to call this the gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time argument.

The problem with this argument is that the gangs are already into other things and it is profits from marijuana that are helping them do that. In the context of Canada, marijuana profits and sometimes even marijuana itself are providing the seed capital the gangs need to expand operations into the States, for example, and to diversify operations (e.g., cocaine, heroin, human trafficking and guns). This is one of the main reasons why we need to nip this in the bud.

Do not take my word for it though. Take the RCMP's or VPD's or any police force that you can think of.

Allan Castle, head of the RCMP's criminal analysis section in B.C "B.C. bud . . . was really the industrial revolution of organized crime in B.C.," Mr. Castle said. "It made a lot of bad guys very, very wealthy. And it developed international networks that hadn't existed before."

Special Agent Jeffrey Wagner of DEA "What happens is the organizations, instead of smuggling currency over the border to pay for cocaine to bring up and then again smuggling ecstasy or marijuana over the border, they look at it as a way to pay their debt."

Attributed to RCMP Cpl. Norm Massie "He said gangsters trade weapons and drugs, often with ecstasy and marijuana heading to the U.S. in exchange for guns and cocaine."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fundamentalists take Note: Sex Education reduces the number of abortions

The delicious irony of the abstinence only sex education programs in the States is that not only does it contribute to teen pregnancy rates that dwarf anything found in Europe, the percentage of US teens having abortions is several times greater than the rate at which European teens are getting pregnant. For example whereas the rate of US teenage girls getting pregnant is 79.8 and the abortion rate 27.5 per thousand, the rate at which teenage girls are getting pregnant in Holland is 8. 7 and abortion rate is 4.2.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Aging Population

Forget globing warming, an aging population is the biggest problem facing the country. Canada has to get younger. The average Canadian in 2004 was 39.7; in other words Canada is one of the oldest nations on earth. However bad things are now things promise to get a lot worse. The percentage of Canadians over 65 is set to go from 14.7 now to 27.6 in 2050. If the situation was ever allowed to get this bad, the economy would be at best stagnet and likely in sharp decline, the federal government would surely be in deficit, and virtually ever public entitlement program would have collapsed or would be close to. Public health care system would surely have collapsed under the demands placed on it. People in their 60s cost the health care system more twice as much on a per capita basis than that of any the younger demographics. People in their 70s cost the health care system more twice that as people in their 60s on per capita basis. People in their 80s cost the system twice as much per capita basis and on it goes.

Part of the problem is that average immigrant to Canada (37.1) is not much younger than the average Canadian (39.7). The situation is akin to baling out a boat by moving water from one part of the boat to another.

It is imperative that Canada undertake such a project now. After all, Canada is not alone in having to deal with aging population. Some European countries have an even worse problem.

"World Bank projections show that the working-age population of the present EU will drop from 230m now to 167m by 2050, a fall of 63m. Most of this is concentrated in the 12 current euroland countries, where working-age population is projected to drop from 186m to 131m. The worst-hit individual countries are Italy , with a 15m, or 42% fall, from 36m to 21m, followed by Spain and Germany. Britain is not immune but fares relatively well. The World Bank projects a 5m fall in working-age population, from 35.2m to 29.9m In general, though, Europe's position is dire. As Lombard Street Research writes: "The last demographic shock on a similar scale was the Black Death of the late 14th century. Even two world wars did not stop Europe 's population rising by nearly a fifth in the first half of the 20th century."

If Europe continues on as it is, the median age in Europe will go from 37.7 today to 52.3 by 2050!
As professor Charles Kupchan notes,

"today there are 35 pensioners for every 100 workers within the European Union.
By 2050, current demographic trends would leave Europe with 75 pensioners for
every 100 workers and in countries like Italy and Spain the ratio would be 1 to 1."

The average immigrant to Canada needs to be under 30 and we need to bring in far more than 250,000 each year. More like 500,000 plus are needed.

Economic Plight of immigrants

Another area of concern is that the ratio of principle skilled principle applicants as percentage of the over number of immigrants to Canada is way too small. Currently less than one in 5 immigrants is a skilled principle applicant. This is a huge concern for a whole host of reasons not the least of which is that it is only skilled principle applicants that earning anywhere close to what their Canadian peers are earning and skilled principle applicants are the only category of immigrants that are working in numbers that even approach the Canadian average.

"At 26 weeks after their arrival, 50% of all immigrants aged 25 to 44 were employed. This was 30 percentage points below the employment rate of about 80% among all individuals aged 25 to 44 in the Canadian population. ... At 52 weeks after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 58%. This narrowed the gap to 23 percentage points. At 104 weeks, or two years after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 63%, 18 percentage points below the national rate of 81%. ... Immigrants admitted as principal applicants in the skilled worker category had an even better record for employment. At 26 weeks after arrival, the gap in the employment rate between them and the Canadian population was 20 percentage points. By 52 weeks, this had narrowed to 12 points, and by two years, it was down to 8 points."

If you tease out the numbers, 55% of non principal skilled applicants in the 25 to 44 age group are working after 2 years! Canada needs to do a better job of ensuring that immigrants are able to succeed and the natural to place to start is eliminate those categories of immigrants that are not likely to succeed economically. The earning power of immigrants is such now that the possibility of large urban immigrant underclass, a la Europe, exists. Canada needs to nip this situation in the bud. The low earning power of immigrants will eventually affect our ability to attract immigrants to Canada as well as the affect the general population’s willingness to accept them.

Guest Workers

For similar reasons Canada must resist the siren song of business and the provinces demanding that the government allow in guest workers under the pretext of meeting labour shortages. Never mind the fact that in many cases such demands amount to little more than a request from business that government assist them gaining a leg up on labour such thinking is short sighted. There is ample evidence that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster. It is great way to, create an underclass, suppress wages, encourage black marketing, increase xenophobia and racism. A quick look at the types of positions being advertised on the Alberta government website shows bad the situation is that the Conservatives are allowing what happened in Europe to happen here. Indeed, in the summer this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. All that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in.
Needless to say, the use of guest workers hardly stimulates the economy in a down turn --- the money flows out of the country -- and yet there is talk in BC of allowing contractors to use guest workers to extend federally funded sky train extension.

Points System

The point system is mess. It is weighted, accidently I am sure, in such a way as to favour older applicants over younger ones. A premium is placed on experience, being married is advantageous and age is not penalized much at all. For example, a 49 year old is given the same number of points for age as a 21 year old! Not only is all this is completely at odds with the stated aim of using immigration to mediate some of the stresses of having a low birth rate, a shrinking supply of labour and a graying population, the very kind of skilled worker most likely to fail, viz., older workers is the one most likely to qualify.

Indeed, while everyone agrees that Canada needs to be a better job of recognizing foreign credentials, what has gotten less attention is just how hard it is establish oneself in a particular field without any contacts in that field and work contacts are what many new immigrants lack. For this reason alone, Canada needs to redo its point system such that it looks to attract younger skilled workers who are not at such a disadvantage contact wise as their peers.

Language proficiency portion is also a mess. Not only is not nearly enough emphasis placed on language proficiency, moderate proficiency across the board in both English and French is amounts to the same thing high proficiency in one! An average switch hitter is not the equal to all star who bats only right handed. Strangely moderate proficiency in a second language is also considered just as good as being highly proficient. Go figure.

All that being said, in order to get at appreciation for some of the short comings of the current points system consider this. Under the current formula, a single 26 year old who has just completed a PHD in Canada, and who speaks perfect English, but who lacks relevant work experience and is not proficient in French would likely not qualify. Indeed, assuming no family ties and no relevant work experience, they would score 56 out of 100. In other words, if they were not able to quickly secure a job in one of the relevant fields, they would be heading back to their country of origin in short order. Even, if that same applicant spoke perfect French and English they would still not qualify. They would score 64 out of 100.

By contrast a 49 year old who has never set foot in the country and speaks no French but has a BA, 3 years experience, moderate English skills a spouse with a 1 year diploma, and a cousin in distant Canadian city would score 67! This is absurd.

Family unification

Put simply Family unification is political boondoggle. Given that the express purpose of the immigration system is mediate some of the stresses of greying population, particularly the on the health care system, there is no cause to let someone sponsor yet their parents yet alone their grandparents. Family unification must be limited to spouses and dependents under 18.

Wait Times

Somehow the Conservatives have been able to perpetuate the myth that current system requires applications to be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. This is simply not true. As Guidy Mamann of the immigration law firm Mamann & Associates notes the immigration minister is not required by law to process applications as they come in.

“In an interview last week with CTV’s Mike Duffy, Finley confirmed that our backlog now stands at about 925,000 applications. The government maintains that the Minister needs these powers to cherry pick applicants who are needed here on a priority basis. She was asked by Duffy, if under the present system, the department was able to fast track, say a welder who was desperately needed in Fort McMurray . Finley answered “The way the law stands now we have to process the oldest application first. If that person is number 600,000 in line we’ve got a lot of applications to get through before that”.This is simply not true. Our current legislation states that the federal cabinet “may make any regulation ... relating to classes of permanent residents or foreign nationals” including “selection criteria, the weight, if any to be given to all or some of those criteria, the procedures to be followed in evaluating all or some of those criteria… the number of applications to be processed or approved in a year” etc. In fact, in the case of Vaziri v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Court held in September 2006 that our current legislation “authorize[s] the Minister to set target levels and to prioritize certain classes of PR applicants” without even aregulation being passed. Accordingly,
Finley has more than enough power under our current legislation to make virtually any changes that she wants subject to the Charter.”

Not only does the government have to cherry pick who it wants, saying that there is massive black long that is nearly a million long is also flat wrong.

There are is not one massive line, but many lines as there are embassies and consulates. How long someone takes to get processed does not depend upon how many people are applying to immigrant to Canada world wide but among other things how many are applying at a particular location. It may take someone in Warsaw 1.8 years to be processed, but someone in Bogotá over 16 years.

Another thing is that Canada puts a quota on the number of people taken in at each local. In other words, to present the problem as if Canada were processing people as fast as they could but we lack the right number of tellers is wrong. Those bottlenecks that do exist, exist because the government wants them to exist.

Conservative dishonesty does not stop there. While acknowledging that more visa officers would speed up the process at many locations, the Conservatives cut staffing levels and reduced the number of places where people can apply. To add insult to injury they and told reporters something that beggars belief, viz., that it costs $900,000 to $1 million to send a visa officer abroad.

There is no cutting corners. Canada has to greatly increasing the number of visa officers in second world countries with large pools of young educated English or French speakers. Brazil is good example. Currently interviews in Brazil are only held in Brasilia and Sao Paulo, but not in Rio.

The flip side of the coin of course is that Canada needs to limits to limit applications to skilled worker class immigrants and their immediate families. People to apply for refugee status only in Canada and not abroad

Needed Reforms

1) rework of the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth, education and language skills and that bonus points are assigned if the applicant has his or her professional skills pre-recognized by the appropriate regulatory body and or the applicant has a university degree from Canadian university

2) grant citizenship to foreigners earning a graduate degree in Canada

3) lift the cap on the number of immigrants allowed in each year.

4) limit family unification to spouses and dependents under 18

5) Insure that it takes no longer than a month for refugee claimants claim to be heard

6) cap the number of refugees at no more than 5000 a year including dependents

7) allow people to apply for refugee status only in Canada and not abroad

8) stop allowing people in on humanitarian grounds and compassionate grounds

Jason Kenney is George Galloway's Publicist

Galloway will be sending the Kenney a Christmas card I am sure. Galloway is getting a thousand times more publicity than he would have gotten had he been allowed in. This will also be the gift that will keep on giving. The Conservatives have turned a loud mouth jack ass into a free speech martyr.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Goodyear Must Go: Science is not a Joke

Conservatives would like the question to be what proof is there that Goodyear's lack of understanding has impacted on any of his decisions as minister. They want us to ignore the fact that his comments already have had an impact on the Ministry itself and more generally on Canada's international reputation. A minister must not only be competent; people must be confident that he is competent. This is especially so in this post Bush world. Even the slightest sign that we are going down the same road as Bush took America with regard to science will hurt us.

There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. Goodyear has become the punchline to many jokes. We do not want his profilo to also be.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The world sees Goodyear and thinks of Bush

In the post Bush era Canada can not afford to look like it is going down the same road with regard to science that the Americans did under Bush. Right now that is exactly the message we are sending out to the world.

Goodyear and the Conservative's Elitist Talking Point

Now that the Conservative minister of Science has demonstrated that he does not know the first thing about Darwinian theory, it would be a perfect time for the Conservatives to attack Ignatieff as an elitist for accepting a position at Harvard.

Goodyear and the Scientific Community

In order to be a good minister you have to have the respect of people you serve. I can guarantee that Goodyear does not have the respect of the scientific community. They view him as joke. His ignorance of Darwinian theory is on par with a foreign minister not knowing where Europe is on a map.

Needless to say, Goodyear's ignorance also shows Canada in bad light.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Goodyear Does not Know the First thing About Evolution

After being outed as a creationist, Goodyear says he believes in evolution and the theory has "potential". It is too bad for Goodyear that it is readily apparent that he does not understand the first thing about evolution. To wit:

“We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.”

You heard it. Some of us are not adapted to "walking on cement versus anything else" and that as we die off (COD pounding the pavement) we will be replaced by people who are adapted to "walking on cement versus anything else". It is disc thing I think. Their discs have more squishy stuff.

Hi There

For years I have been saying that the Liberals should be introducing policies that will make the Barney crowd want to scream. Needless to say, the Liberals have studiously avoided doing any such thing while as the same time bemoaning the Harper's supposed success at muzzling them and celebrating whenever some fudy pipes up.
It is time to go fishing. Just remember though you are not going to catch anything without bait.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Marijuana as Gang Seed capital: We Need to Nip this in the Bud

"Gangsters are killing each other for the right to market cocaine, heroin, meth and more. Even if weed could be taken from the menu, they'd continue. They're bad people who enjoy being bad."

Of course legalizing marijuana would not magically transform hardened criminals into model citizens, but while "bad" is part of what it means to be a gangster it is not the reason why they became gangsters. There are whole host of reasons why people join gangs but by far and away the biggest draw is the money and the fact that the gangs are always hiring as it where. However, if there was a lot less product to move, the gang world will down size just like any other sector of the economy experiencing a down turn. The difference being that jail and death will do what a pink slip would normally do. Members who ended up in jail or who died or who simply moved on would not be replaced the way they once were. The less gang members there are the less shooting there will be.

Furthermore, as Canada is not a producer of coke and heroin, fledgling groups, robbed of the seed capital that marijuana profits provide, would have a difficult time breaking into the market. (Breaking into the marijuana industry is relatively easy and that is why there are so many small players. It is not just that it is grow locally ---and relatively easy to grow at that --- and so there are not the complications and costs associated with smuggling into the country. The demand is so much larger and it is spread over virtually every demographic in ways that demand for other drugs is not. People might not know a single person who uses meth or heroin, but they certainly know people who smoke dope, i.e., potential customers.) They would simply not have enough capital, cache and connections to survive. The less players there are the less violence there will likely be.

This brings me to another point. The experience of other countries has shown that the more profitable the gangs and the more international connections they acquire the more the gangs expand their operations as well as branching off in other directions. Marijuana is providing the seed capital the gangs need to expand and diversify. We need to nip this is in the bud.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Canada's Interantional Reputation: On How to Make a Big Splash

Listening to the Conservatives and many Liberals you would think that Canada's international reputation raise and falls based on our willingness to waste billions of dollars on an Afghanistan mission that only serves to make it more likely that Canada will attacked by terrorists, home grown or otherwise. They could not be more wrong.

Canada's international reputation raises and falls according to our willingness to pass legislation that can serve as model for other countries, particularly other Western countries. SSM was a great case in point. No piece of domestic legislation has ever gotten so much international press, most of it positive, that I can remember. Moreover, not only did SSM debate receive plenty of press, the Canadian decision was important in many legal cases outside of Canada. If Canada were to legalize marijuana the amount for press this would receive would dwarf the coverage SSM debate received. Indeed, the amount for press Canada would receive in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Columbia would quickly eclipse the amount Canada has received in those countries in the last 100 years.

As for what would happen domestically, of course Canadians will tell posters that they are far more concerned with other issues, of which they know next to nothing about, e.g., health care, but their willingness to talk about it at length will give lie to what they are saying. Actions speak louder than words. Needless to say, the press would be all over this issue.

Politically the Liberals would benefit in the same way that they benefited from the SSM debate. Namely, they would benefit from the Conservatives defending the same bad arguments day after day after day after day. (The country was evenly spilt when it came to SSM. However likely voters were not spilt. The Conservatives had the advantage. The older one was the more likley one was to oppose SSM and to vote. The Conservative arguments were terrible though and the issue received a tone of press between January 2005 and July 2005. The willingness of the Conservatives to trot out one bad argument after another hurt the Conservatives more than having the majority of likely voters oppose SSM hurt the Liberals. It was at the end of he SSM debate the Liberals were riding post sponsorship high in the polls and pundits were writing off Stephen Harper. The debate ended too soon for the Liberals though. The bill passed in July of 2005 and Fall session was dominated by Dingwall.)

BTW, the numbers for marijuana are far better than they ever where for SSM. Every poll in the last 3 years has put support for legalization in the low 50s and opposition in the high 30s.

Harper: conservatism is "Freedom Family and Faith"

There are two things that bother me about the media's coverage of Stephen Harper. One is lauding him for being an "economist" simply because he has an MA in economics and the other is calling him a social moderate. There is nothing about Harper that is moderate. He is holds extreme free market views which qualified him to head up the NCC. And weather it be AIDS research, SSM, a moralistic approach to illegal drug use, corporal punishment, or state child care, he is right there with the fundamentalist nuts. Hell, just the other day, "Harper told the group that his version of conservatism is summed up 'in three Fs:freedom, family and faith.'"

MSM take note: Harper is not an Economist

Harper has but a Masters degree in economics and no body of professional work. No one would ever think to call every Tom Dick and Harry an economist simply by virtue of the fact that they have an MA in the subject, but in the Prime Minister's case the media make an exception. Now maybe it because the Republicans have tried to make educated and conservative an oxymoran and so the media feel the need to acknowledge him as being a rare duck, but still the lack of educated conservatives does not magically transform the most educated of them into experts. When stacked up against Irwin Colter, Stephen Dion, Michael Ignatieff and John McCallum Stephen Harper is academic pip squeak and there is no cause to treat him as having anywhere near the academic credentials as they do. It is particularly asinine to talk about the Prime Minister being an economist and not pay the same homage to John McCallum. McCallum has a PhD, has taught at various universities and was the chief economist for the Royal Bank.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Liberals are much Better Positioned than they where last year

The Liberal numbers are not up significantly over what they were last year. However, it is obvious that they are in a much better place. Their fundraising numbers are up, they are strong second in Quebec, Ignatieff's personal numbers are much better than Dion's everywhere, it almost unimaginable that Ignatieff could fair any worse than Dion in English Canada, and Ignatieff is striking just the right tone of late. He is mocking the Conservatives bully boy tactics. As I said before, the way to handle a bully is to mock the bully. The absolute worst thing you can do take it personally and that is what Dion did. This drove me around the bend.

Even the Liberal blogsphere is coming around. Gone are the days when BCer in Toronto was lauding Dion for keeping it clean and wasting valuable resources on sunshine and butterfly ads that did nothing but confirm the Liberals are a bunch of effeminate wimps. "Grit girl" is making the rounds. Confirming that if you do not have the comedic skills of a John Stewart or a bunch of Quebec artists, all you need to do for an ad to be effective is juxtapose truth and lies. Commentary and lead up are at best a waste of space and at worst a distraction. Just the facts are needed.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Liberal Blog Report Cards: Red Tory: Far and Wide: Calgary Grit and A BCer in Toronto

Far and wide Steve V is fair, industrious and thoughtful. He is also a loyal team player. Ralph Gooddale meet your blogging doopelganger

Calgary Grit A Good humored and cheeky political junkie. He is about as unalarming as a committed partisan can be. If you have a hate on for Grit, you should look into anger management.

Red Tory A very well read and prolific iconoclast and polemicist, Red is my favorite Liberal blogger.

A BCer in Toronto Jeff Jedrasis is too willing to the toe the party line for my liking. However, Jeff is industrious and his blog has improved over the years. Both Steve and Jeff are solid citizens of the blogging world in boring Canadian sort of way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama Canada and Marijuana Legalization

Obama has bigger fish to fry right now than to waste political capital legalizing marijuana.

That said, external forces could force his hand. For example if Canada were legalize marijuana he would be engulfed in debate. The problem for Obama is not only would Canadian boldness flame domestic debate but should Canada have the guts to go through with such a move various European countries (e.g., Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands) Australia and Latin America, Mexico in particular, would soon follow Canada's led. The international dominos would start falling one by one. This in turn would further embolden domestic proponents, especially those in California.

Politically, Obama's ability to push back would be limited. His hands are tied in ways another leader hands would not be. He freely admits to having marijuana in the past ("I inhaled frequently. That was the point") and his marijuana use is not a part of some redemption narrative, a la George Bush. It was a path he choice not to continue going down. Drug use was never presented as a demon he had to overcome yet alone one he still struggles with the way an alcoholic does with drink. This would leave him open to the charge of hypocrisy. Far more importantly though, the war and drugs, especially with regard to marijuana, has had a profound impact on the African American community in the States. If Obama was to toe the standard line in the face of Canada promising to end the war on drugs, he would be in a world of hurt politically. The African American community would not, of course, abandon him, but they would be unhappy and their unhappiness would have the potential to throw his whole presidency out of whack politically. His whole message of being the candidate of change would be called into question. There is also some evidence that it may be unpopular with Obama's many online supporters.

"On Obama's Web site, which was used during the transition period, his staff asked the public to submit new policy ideas. Then the rest of the online community voted on its favorites.The most popular idea, by a wide margin: 'Ending marijuana prohibition.'"

Finally, there is every indication that Obama is sympathetic to the cause. Obama promised to stop raiding medical marijuana dispensaries during the lead up to the election and he made good on it the other day. This is big. In the month and bit since Obama took announcement 10 states are debating medical marijuana provisions. Once the number of States with medical marijuana provisions (currently there are 13) reaches a critical mass, marijuana will have to be reclassified. It is currently classified as a schedule one drug, i.e., an illegal drug with no medical benefit. A federal show down as to what place marijuana has in US society is, in other words, in the works.

It is also big for another reason. Unlike in Canada, in California, for example, one does not have to be afflicted with a particular aliment to be eligible. A doctor can proscribe marijuana for whatever they see fit. Needless to say, the Bush administration was right to see California's medical marijuana program as a Trojan horse and that is why they cracked down so heavily. The system is ripe for abuse and with medical marijuana users and dispensaries no longer being targeted the medical marijuana industry in California will eventually grow so large as to leave no alternative but legalization.